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Germany’s Sigmar Gabriel: Time for a New Détente Policy Toward Russia

July 19, 2017 (EIRNS)—Having previously explicitly supported the Trump-Putin meeting in Hamburg as being in Germany’s interest, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has now called for a new approach toward Russia, telling Focus magazine:

"Why can we not dare to lay a new foundation to the disarmament and arms control [policy] instead of rushing into a giant arms race?... Even though it goes against many things nowadays, I ardently support the idea of the new eastern and détente policy."

He added he would like to see fewer tensions in relations between Moscow and Berlin but said the Ukrainian crisis should first be resolved in order to create a climate for friendlier relations between the two countries.

Gabriel recommend that "everyone" take a more empathetic approach towards Russia and try to understand Moscow’s position on a range of international issues.

"Putin is disappointed with the West. The EU [European Union] had held association talks with Ukraine without discussing the issue with Russia," Gabriel said, adding that "there are a lot of disappointed expectations about Germany in Russia."

He furthermore urged a change on the sanctions policy:

"In accordance with the EU decision, the Minsk agreements should be implemented 100 percent before the sanctions [against Russia] could be lifted 100 percent. I think it is unrealistic. It would have been right to gradually remove sanctions in order to show that we should take steps toward peace.... Despite the fact that there are many reasons against it now, I advocate for the new Eastern policy and the policy of resolving tensions."

The Foreign Minister called for a gradual step-by-step lifting of sanctions following every positive development in the Ukrainian crisis, regardless of how small this development might be. He added that Europe should "demonstrate that movement towards peace pays off." Russia has been a reliable and reasonable partner, particularly in the gas sector, [and] cooperation with Russia in that field is profitable for Europe, Gabriel added. He criticized the U.S. [Senate] for its attempts to hamper gas trade between the EU and Russia and to force Europe to buy American gas instead. Gabriel said U.S. foreign policy should not turn into an "extension of U.S. economic policy."

"It is totally unacceptable," he said,

"that [the U.S.] drives Russia further into the corner by pressing Russian gas [companies] out of Europe and forcing the Europeans to buy American gas,"

referring to a recent U.S. bill threatening to punish European companies taking part in the construction of a Russian gas pipeline under the Nord Stream 2 project.

"Ask the French, Austrian, or Dutch industries—they all want the project because Russia is a reliable gas transporter that offers reasonable price [for its services],"

he added.

Gabriel emphasized that it is possible to discuss contested matters with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"He defends Russia’s interests and has his own point of view on the conflict [in Ukraine]," he said, adding that the Russian leader, nonetheless, is a man with whom contested problems can be discussed clearly and unequivocally. "That is why I appreciate conversations with him." It is important to understand Russia’s point of view, Gabriel stressed.